A sideways look at Spanish football
FRIDAY Celta Vigo (14th) v Sevilla (4th) – 21.30 CESTNormally, the only things that excite the fish-obsessed fans of Celta Vigo are saucy stories involving sardines. But that was until the club reeled in Arsenal's Korean striker Chu-Young Park on a loan deal – quite a catch for the side – and the South Korean landed a goal soon after. At that moment, the Galician side netted a whole shoal of new fans who cod not have been happier when Celta put an interview of the forward up on the team’s web-channel. Unfortunately, the interview hooked in so many fans that the site crashed after around 18,000 surfers in eight hours took Celta’s bait. No doubt eel be happy to round off the week with a goal against visiting Sevilla on fry-day night. [Ed: That's enough, it's giving me a haddock.]LLL Prediction – Draw
SATURDAYRayo Vallecano (13th) v Deportivo (16th) – 16.00The Spanish football media quickly tired of the Rayo floodlights story, but La Liga Loca will follow it doggedly, at least for another week. There has been no further progress in finding out who allegedly cut a bunch of electricity cables ahead of the Real Madrid game, but AS claim Rayo have changed some internal procedures. All employees bar the head of maintenance have handed in their entrance keys, while security cameras have been installed inside and outside the ground – moves which smack of horses bolting, but, er... refusing to drink. LLL Prediction – Home win
Zaragoza (15th) v Getafe (11th) – 18.00The return of a troubling la Primera concept: you get fined about €600 for lobbing potentially damaging objects onto the pitch, but five times the punishment for flashing a T-shirt. In last Monday’s Getafe forward Diego Castro celebrated the winner against Mallorca by lifting his top to reveal a tribute to the sadly departed Manuel Preciado. Castro worked with the marvelous Manolo at Sporting and wanted to dedicate the “most important goal of my career because of what it meant to all Asturians, for his family, for me and for everyone who knew Manuel Preciado.” It could cost Castro a fine of up to €3,000 beside the obligatory booking, but he calls it “the best investment of my life.”LLL Prediction – Home win
Valladolid (7th) v Espanyol (20th) – 20.00Poor Mauricio Pochettino: the tracksuit-loving trainer deserves better. On Monday, the in-fighting Espanyol board met to decide if anything needed to be done in reaction to the club going to the bottom of the table. The answer was "no", but a day later the board changed its mind, resigned en masse and called shareholder elections to vote for a new president in November.
Meanwhile, Perico boss Pochettino stood by waving his resignation, which was never accepted by the departing big-wigs. Aside from that there’s not too much that the Argentinian coach can do aside from beat Valladolid on Sunday, considering that there’s nobody around to clean the club’s kitchen, never mind sack him. Which would be quite undeserved, anyway. LLL Prediction – Home win
Betis (9th) v Real Sociedad (8th) – 22.00La Real are very much a Jekyll and Hyde team. Apart from not being fictional characters. Or medically trained. Or monsters. At home in la Anoeta, the San Sebastian team are strong Primera performers, having gone six months (eight matches) without losing: Champions League form that would see them third in the calendar year 2012. Away from home it’s a sadder story, with la Real having won just the once over the same period: proper relegation form.LLL Prediction – Away win
SUNDAYLevante (12th) v Valencia (10th) – 12.00Valencia have had a soft start to the season but last weekend's victory against Zaragoza and the Jonas-inspired Champions League midweek win against Lille have quietened the boos. Unless you happen to be Dani Parejo, jeered by Mestalla supporters who have the hump with the former Real Madrid, Getafe and QPR midfielder on the grounds that he cost quite a lot of money and has done naff all to repay it. “It’s something incomprehensible. I can’t say why the public booed him,” claimed Mauricio Pellegrini, knowing completely why the public booed him: because they're Valencia fans.
It was a bad week for Valencia midfielders, what with Sofiane Feghouli being banned for three (three!) games after last weekend's double indiscretion: a second-yellow sending-off followed by ever so slightly clapping the decision of referee Pérez Montero.LLL Prediction – Draw
Mallorca (5th) v Granada (17th) – 16.00LLL was rather surprised to read this week that Granada didn’t have a permanent training home, something that tends to be a useful asset at a professional sports club. (Then again, erstwhile top-flighters Hércules had to trek around the region looking for somewhere to practice.) Granada’s current home-from-home is a sports club with a rugby field but a new project will see a new pitch, medical facilities, gymnasium, upgraded dressing rooms and even personalised lockers for the players. Imagine that!LLL Prediction – Home win
Athletic Bilbao (18th) v Osasuna (19th) – 18.00If there’s one thing that Osasuna boss José Luis Mendilibar is good at doing, it’s looking very cross indeed. And with good reason at the moment, what with his team having won just the single league match this season. However, shouting and scowling are quite handy means of communication considering the international tingle-tangle world of football and all its many tongues. Take for example Anthony Annan: a Ghanaian loaned to a Spanish side from German club Schalke, whom he joined from Norway. “I don’t understand anything the boss says but when he looks at you, you know what you have to do,” admits Annan. “He’s a very aggressive manager and makes it clear what he wants. He only speaks Spanish and when I have trouble I ask the players who know English.”LLL Prediction – Home win
Barcelona (1st) v Real Madrid (6th) – 19.50The clip-notes of the latest Clásico contest read that the tie hinges on whether Barça’s makeshift defence can hold back Real Madrid’s resurgent attack… or if Ronaldo & Co barely get a sniff of a foray into the opposition half due to Barça giving their opponents a giant football wedgie and extending their table-topping lead to 11 points. Whatever happens, Florentino Pérez will be sat amongst the Camp Nou crowd – in the comfier seats – knowing that whatever happens in the game that he can be president of Real Madrid forever and ever, thanks to a general meeting of the ‘special’ members of the club’s supporters.
In that particular gathering last Sunday, one of the topics of conversation was how to ensure that the ‘right’ kind of person can stand for president of the club come election time. The proposal – passed with a whopping majority, to be fair – suggests ‘not many’. Candidates must have been a socio for 20 years, be Spanish and have the ability to personally deposit 15% of Madrid’s budget into a bank account in an attempt to dissuade thieves and evil-doers. And fellas named Ramón. Given the 2012 budget for the club, that would be a goodly €75m. But with the next elections still a year away, there’s still ample opportunity to start saving some money in time for the campaign. LLL Prediction – Away win
Atlético Madrid (2nd) v Málaga (3rd) – 21.30If you're looking for a tip on the Clásico result, consider what would happen to Atlético Madrid if their city rivals were to beat Barcelona: a subsequent Rojiblanco victory against Málaga in the Vicente Calderón would see Atletico top of la Liga for two whole weeks over the international break. Of course, no one outside of the Vicente Calderón collective will notice in Spain as Real Madrid’s glorious success will be blasted across the land for a fortnight, leaving Atlético’s enthralling adventure as a mere football footnote. LLL Prediction – Home win
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